I PAY a visit to the advice centre in Orgiva to collect a parcel. It’s a place where floundering people such as myself can seek assistance with anything from arranging a dental appointment to buying a house – neither of which is straightforward in an unfamiliar country. It also functions as the postal address for many foreign nationals who live in the surrounding hills, because once out in the campo – the countryside – the Spanish postal system ceases to exist. The two ladies who run the office ask if I have plans for the week. I tell them my wife is visiting family in England, so I will be varnishing doors and fending for myself. “Ah, so you are Rodriguez,” they say . . .
Yes, Rodriguez. When a woman goes on holiday and leaves her husband at home to work, the man is known as Rodriguez, they tell me. It’s a Spanish tradition. “So you are being Rodriguez,” they say. “Estar de Rodriguez.”
I like the idea of being Rodriguez because it sounds quintessentially Spanish. In a moment of weakness, while passing a clothes shop, I consider buying one of those black hats with a big flat brim and a frilly shirt, but the thought that some voluptuous woman in a tight red dress might emerge from a doorway, click her castanets and wrap a leg round me for a quick tango scares me back to reality. I don’t think I could handle that. I’ve seen Moulin Rouge three times so I know what I’m talking about.
But Rodriguez. Hey, that really has a ring to it.
Walking home with my Amazon parcel under my arm I feel I have made a small step towards being accepted into Andalucian society; I am slowly inching – sorry, centimetring – towards integration; I have embraced multiculturalism and am reaping the benefits.
I pass an old lady heaving a tartan wheelie basket up a hill. I want to say to her: “Hey señora. Yo estoy Rodriguez. Waddya think of that?” But I don’t, because I harbour a suspicion there is more to this strange tradition than meets the squinting eye. Who was the original Rodriguez: some poor fellow who’s wife ran off with a Catalan car dealer and left him at home with three chickens and a donkey? I need to undertake some research. Pronto.
Back at my strangely silent house I enter the world of Google and search for Rodriguez. This is not an easy task because Rodriguez is a common name. It’s like phoning a workingmen’s club in Cardiff and asking if Mr Jones is in the bar. But patience brings its small rewards.
One website informs me that the stay-at-home Rodriguez became popular during the 1960s and 1970s, when the traditional roles of husband and wife began to merge and the Spanish middle-classes found they could afford holidays. There are also certain eyebrow-raising connotations associated with the term, as illustrated by this quote:
Ex. “Salimos este finde? Estoy de Rodríguez.”
Translation: “Want to go out this weekend? My wife’s out of town.”
This adds substance to my suspicions. Rodriguez is beginning to look like he’s a bit of a lad. Just as well I didn’t say anything to the old lady with the wheelie basket. Who knows where that could have ended up.
Another dive into the sullied depths unearths a nugget of pyrite suggesting Rodriguez originated in a 1970s Spanish sit-com. Plot: wife leaves home; husband has to figure out how to turn on the hoover and cook toast.
This is a nice idea. The concept of the name surviving in oral tradition after the series has been forgotten has echoes in those well-uttered lines from classic British comedies: Captain Mainwaring’s “stupid boy”; Corporal Jones’s “don’t panic”; Victor Meldrew’s “I don’t believe it”; Del Boy’s “you plonker”; phrases people use time and time again without reference to their origins. Even when uttered out of context they are instantly recognisable and accepted because previous generations have laughed at them.
Rodriguez is becoming a complex character. His name has survived but the man has been forgotten. Like the Hobson who gave us a choice and the Riley who lived life to the full, the elusive Gordon Bennett and the tragic Sweet Fanny Adams, he’s made his mark but has left nothing tangible.
I dive deeper into the murky substrata of Google and this time discover a real gem. With an air of unabashed authority, this American website tells me the tradition originates in the 1965 Spanish film comedy El Cálido Verano del Sr Rodríguez (The Hot Summer of Mr Rodriguez), which is about – as we expected – a man who is left alone while his wife goes on holiday.
Not having seen the film, I cannot speak with the same unabashed authority on whether Señor Rodriguez immerses himself in his work, or his weaknesses lead him to indulge in less-wholesome activities. However, another internet search reveals a series of follow-up films – one titled Tres Suecas para Tres Rodríguez (Three Swedes for Three Rodreguezes) and has a poster depicting three Swedish beauties wearing bikinis – which leads me to conclude that the latter is the more likely scenario.
Hmmm. So that’s what really happens when you’re being Rodriguez.
With an air of unparalleled optimism I saunter to the garden gate to see if any bikini-clad Swedish ladies are passing along the track, but there’s nothing there except the three-legged dog referred to in a previous article. He looks happy enough, though, despite his incapacity.
On the way back I spot my gherkin plants nodding in the sunshine, and I suddenly remember I’d promised to write about gherkins in today’s post. I apologise for this oversight, especially to those among you with a penchant for the pickled variety.
The truth is, when you’re being Rodriguez you’re a very busy person with a multitude of important tasks to perform. Unlike the Swedish ladies, the gherkins will be along shortly.